The media recognize that without a trusted, independent source of data and analysis, the flow of information about state and local government issues would be controlled by two sources — the governmental units themselves and interest groups. CRC is that trusted source. Here are the latest articles in which CRC is cited:

Michigan’s corrections system takes a staggering $2 billion-plus (about 22 percent) of the GF/GP portion of the state budget every year. In 2011, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan hosted a symposium arguing for a Corrections budget of just $1.5 billion. This remains a laudable goal and one that could be met with a combination of privatization and sentencing reforms.

Michigan’s school districts reported $3.4 billion in combined special-education expenditures in 2010, up 60% from 2000, according to an analysis released this summer by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a public affairs research organization. Special-education students on average cost about $14,397 to educate in 2010, compared with $9,633 per general-education student, the group found.

Governor Snyder will likely sign lame-duck legislation that would change the process for removing elected leaders from office, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Bettie Buss, a senior researcher for the non-partisan Citizens Research Council, said such appropriations actually are quite common and, in this case, somewhat expected.

Legislation limiting the power of unions is headed to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s desk, where the Republican is expected to sign the so-called “right to work” bill into law after it was approved by a vote of 58-52 in the Michigan House. But union organizers say they can still undo the contentious legislation, which bars the mandatory collection of labor dues. The idea, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, is that opponents of the law could file petitions with signatures of registered voters equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. The legislature would then either enact or reject the petition — presumably the latter. After that, it would go on the ballot for the next general election in 2014.

Under this approach, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, opponents of the law would have to file petitions with signatures of registered voters equal to eight percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. The legislature would then either enact or reject the petition — presumably the latter. After that, it would go on the ballot for the next general election, in 2014.

In a detailed study last June, the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan found Michigan’s procedures are about in the middle among states that empower their citizens to recall officials. Yet 457 elected officials have faced recall elections here in the last 12 years, which ranks us tops among four states that have varying levels of recall provisions to which CRC compared Michigan. And the numbers are growing.

Local media reports about the city’s financial troubles address the prospect of bankruptcy with an air of inevitability. At the beginning of the year, Dillon told WXYZ Action News that his department’s report showed the city had more than $12.3 billion in bond debt, but that a top state judge estimated the amount would be closer to $17 billion once interest was added. Watchdog group Citizens Research Council said the city had more than $14 billion in liabilities as of mid-2010, not including interest.

Under current law, Detroit has no path that could lead it to federal bankruptcy court. Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a nonpartisan public policy group, said the state would have to appoint an emergency financial manager for the city who could decide to pursue Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy as long as the state does not block the move.

Under current law, Detroit has no path that could lead it to federal bankruptcy court. Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a nonpartisan public policy group, said the state would have to appoint an emergency financial manager for the city who could decide to pursue Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy as long as the state does not block the move.

He drew upon the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a smart crew of intriguing individuals, and was a far better a source of information than the ads that mislead on both sides of the issue.

Analyses of the proposal by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the Citizens Research Council — even attorneys with the Michigan Education Association, which the union subsequently disavowed — suggest that laws which spell out disciplinary standards for teachers, impose financial penalties for teacher strikes and require the notification of parents when a child is being taught by an ineffective teacher would be superseded to the extent they conflict with a collective-bargaining agreement.

The independent, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council said the primary question for voters as it relates to Proposal 4 is whether such remedies should be enshrined in the state constitution or through a referendum on the state law, such as the one on the ballot pertaining to state-appointed emergency managers running struggling cities and schools.

Memo 1122 reprinted verbatim

… The non-partisan Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan estimates the amendment would impact around 42,000 in-home care workers hired by participants in the the Home Help Services Program, which is funded by Medicaid and paid through the Michigan Department of Community Health. …

Analysis by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council found that 17 states have some kind of supermajority requirement for tax increases. The report noted that one study found that such requirements resulted in lower taxes. But it also noted that other research found that they do not necessarily affect total revenue. “In other words, states often increase other taxes, fees and charges to make up for reduced tax collections arising from supermajority vote requirements.” The CRC report warned that the two-thirds requirement “could affect Michigan’s bond rating, which in turn could affect the state’s cost of borrowing.”

The forum was hosted by Adrian Mayor Greg DuMars and Adrian City Commission member Chuck Jacobson and used two recorded webinars by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a nonpartisan research organization, to explain the proposals.

The initiative represents a way for the Great Lakes State to play catch-up. A report by the Citizens Research Council says 29 other states have renewable energy usage standards and that Michigan’s 10 percent requirement is among the “least aggressive.” If the ballot initiative passes, Michigan will be the only state with renewable energy requirements in its constitution.

The battle will likely continue down to the wire over Proposal 2, which would put collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers in the Michigan Constitution, as well as keep the Legislature from passing a Right to Work law. The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council calls Proposal 2 a pushback against recent actions by the governor and Legislature to restrict the bargaining power and costs of public-sector workers, including restriction of teacher tenure, higher out-of-pocket health-care costs and prohibiting minimum staffing levels for police and firefighters.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan says passage of the proposal could increase costs in a time of declining revenue for local and state governments. It also could have the “perverse effect” of increasing pressure on governments to move work to lower cost, private-sector companies, the council concludes.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council notes: “It is likely that the cost of electricity in Michigan will increase over the next 10 to 12 years with or without adoption of the proposed amendment.”

Citizens Research Council of Michigan analysis on Proposal 3 says there are renewable portfolio standards in place in 29 states (including Michigan), while an additional eight states have renewable goals. (See map 1 of the report.) Thirteen states, the report says, have neither.

CRC says Michigan would be unique in a constitutional provision for a renewable standard. So, as MTS noted in September, “A viewer’s impression would turn on the interpretation of the word ‘similar.’ Is a constitutional requirement for renewable power ‘similar’ to a statutory requirement for one?”

In fairness to the question, I will admit the Independent Citizens Research Council (www.crcmich.org), a magnificent public policy resource for voters and citizens, states it is not as pessimistic on that point as I am.

According to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council, the proposal would add a fifth tax and expenditure limitation the state Constitution. The council said in a recent report Michigan would join nine states with constitutional requirements for supermajority votes to enact tax increases of any type — the most restrictive requirement of its kind.

Michigan voters will decide six ballot issues on Election Day. Five of them would amend the state Constitution. They deal with issues like collective bargaining, taxation and renewable energy. The other proposal is a referendum on Michigan’s latest Emergency Financial Manager Law. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has analyzed and prepared reports on each of the proposals. The analysis also includes webinars on each proposal. The Council’s Director of Local Affairs, Eric Lupher, says anytime the state Constitution could be amended it’s important. But he says these issues deal with fundamental issues of state government.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council wrote a seven-page white paper analyzing the history of local government authority in Michigan and the history of legislation designed to address financial distress in local units of government.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the gold standard of nonpartisan policy analysis in our state, concludes that Proposal 2’s adoption “has the potential to dramatically alter the established powers and authorities constitutionally granted to different branches of government” and precipitate years of litigation over the rights of counties, cities, school boards and public universities.

The proposal calls for the establishment of a “Michigan Quality Home Care Council” in the state constitution and would affirm limited collective bargaining rights for about 42,000 home health care workers. Those workers are hired and fired by the elderly or disabled participants of the Medicaid-funded Home Help Services Program, and are paid by the Michigan Department of Community Health, the Michigan Citizens Research Councilstates.

Private and public sector workers already have collective bargaining rights in Michigan. Private sector bargaining is governed by the federal National Labor Relations Act. State civil service laws allow classified state civil service workers to collectively bargain with state government. And, noted the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, “Article XI, Section 5 of the Michigan Constitution provides state police troopers and sergeants with the constitutional right to collective bargaining. These are the only public employees in Michigan with constitutionally protected collective bargaining rights.”

If voters vote “no” and repeal Public Act 4, emergency managers could remain in place with much weaker powers under the 1990 emergency manager law — or lawmakers could try to draft a new law mimicking Public Act 4. Some distressed cities or school districts could file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, potentially leaving bondholders unpaid, unionized workers without contracts and retirees without the pensions they were promised. (Michigan is one of 26 states that permit their municipalities to file for bankruptcy under federal law, says the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.)

In its analysis issued in September, the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan concluded the measure could hamper the Legislature’s ability to deal with complex fiscal issues. It echoed Bean’s concern over its impact on the state’s bond rating.

The state Board of Canvassers placed the issue repealing the Emergency Manager Law on the Nov. 6 ballot, because it was directed to do so by the Michigan Supreme Court, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The law has been suspended since Aug. 8.

Proposal 2 would amend the Michigan constitution to include the right for public and private sector employees to organize for collective bargaining. According to analysis by the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, passage of Proposal 2 would “effectively restrict the ability of the Michigan legislature to enact right to work legislation.” It does not change the current power the state has to prohibit strikes by public sector employees.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan said in its analysis: “Obtaining these approvals would be nearly impossible and doing so in a timely manner would be out of the question.”

Proposal 4 asks voters whether to amend Michigan’s constitution to grant limited collective bargaining to caretakers paid through the state’s Medicaid-funded Home Help Services program. These roughly 42,000 caretakers (according to an estimate from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan) help with everyday activities their elderly and/or disabled patients can’t do themselves. They often care for their friends and relatives and make an average of $8 an hour.

Opponents — backed by the Citizens Research Council — contend that operation of the registry and related benefits can be accomplished without the amendment through the federal Home Help Program since the program is funded by Medicaid and Medicare.

The conflict came in the interlocal agreement’s designation of home-care workers as public employees. That allowed them to organize. A Citizens Research Council memo on Proposal 4 states that, in 2005, SEIU Healthcare Michigan was recognized as the bargaining unit for approximately 43,000 home-care aides statewide. An election was held, with ballots sent to that many; 6,949 ballots were returned with yes votes, 1,007 had “no” and 589 ballots were spoiled. Dues withholding of 2.75 percent began in November 2006.

Following, the Beacon will attempt to help voters understand the proposals by publishing the ballot language and excerpts of conclusions by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan which has analyzed the proposals.

The state is fortunate to have the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council analyzing major state issues, including all six of the ballot issues. CRC’s full reports are available at crcmich.org.

Opponents — backed by the Citizens Research Council — contend operation of the registry and related benefits can be accomplished without the amendment through the federal Home Help Program since the program is funded by Medicaid and Medicare.

A report by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan found, “By reducing the dependence on coal, the proposed amendment would reduce the amount of resources paid to other states to purchase coal and would reduce the cost of transporting coal from other states. Money not paid for the purchase or transportation of coal could remain in Michigan to be put to other purposes.”

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, in analyzing Proposal 5, noted that states with strong tax limitation rules didn’t necessarily spend less per person than states without them because lawmakers and governors turned to fees as a money-raising tool: “Other academic research … suggests that the vote requirement may affect state tax revenue, but does not affect total state revenue.” (emphasis ours)

A recent Citizens Research Council memorandum on the proposal offers a comprehensive history of the issue, which dates to 2004, when the Granholm administration formed an interlocal agreement between the state’s Department of Community Health and the Tri-County Aging Consortium of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. Thus was born the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, or MQC3, as it became known.

“It really points to the divisiveness and severe partisanship we see in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and generally divides the politics among us,” said Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “This year, I think we can probably argue that the planets are aligning … (and) that draws attention to these things.”

So now that you are scratching your head over who is right, the answer may ultimately be resolved by the courts if this thing passes. For an objective analysis of the ins and outs of all this go to the Citizens Research Council web site.

According to a report by the independent, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Proposal 2 is an effort to combat recent actions taken by the governor and Legislature to restrict the bargaining power and costs of public sector workers. Those recent actions include restriction of teacher tenure, requiring public employees to pay more for health-care premiums and prohibit minimum staffing levels for police and firefighters. Further, Proposal 2, would, according to the Citizens Research Council, “effectively restrict the ability of the Michigan Legislature to enact right to work legislation.”

A recent Citizens Research Council memorandum on the proposal offers a comprehensive history of the issue, which dates to 2004, when the Granholm administration formed an interlocal agreement between the state’s Department of Community Health and the Tri-County Aging Consortium of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. Thus was born the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, or MQC3, as it became known.

A memo from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan mentions that nine states have broad constitutional requirements for supermajority votes to enact state tax increases of any type. Michigan would join that group if Proposal 5 passes. Two more states have similar requirements contained in state law rather than the constitution.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council has done analyses of all statewide ballot proposals. It found that passage of Proposal 6 would likely end up in court. “Certainly, a number of state, federal, and international legal issues will be raised by supporters of the ballot question and others opposed to the construction of the NITC without a statewide vote. It is likely that such issues, although debated in the arena of public opinion, ultimately will be resolved in the courts.”

A report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan says 29 other states have renewable energy usage standards and that Michigan’s 10 percent requirement is among the “least aggressive.” But if the ballot initiative passes, Michigan will be the only state with renewable energy requirements in its constitution.

The Certificate of Need program is enforced by state law that “prohibits identified health facilities, services and equipment from being initiated, upgraded or modernized, expanded, relocated, or acquired without a certificate from the state determining the facility, service or equipment is needed,” according to a report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

This November voters in Michigan will decide six questions on the statewide ballot. One of those is a referendum on the new Emergency Financial Manager Law. The other five are Constitutional amendments. Voters in Michigan can collect petition signatures to hold a referendum on an existing law, initiate a new law, or propose an amendment to the state Constitution. A new report by the Citizens Research Council of Michiganquestions why so many issues end up as proposed Constitutional amendments. The CRC’s Director of Local Affairs Eric Lupher says that may be because the number of required signatures is based on a percentage of the votes in the last gubernatorial election.

To learn about other provisions of PA 4, read this thorough overview by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. You can find full text of the law on the state website and review emergency manager contracts from the treasury.

“The great departure in PA 4” from its predecessors dating back to 1988 “is the granting of powers to emergency managers that are significantly greater than those that may be exercised by locally elected officials and the extension of those powers into every aspect of local government,” the Citizens Research Council of Michigan says in a new report.

“I don’t think anybody doubts that some process needs to be available for the state to intervene,” said Bettie Buss, a senior research associate for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “The question is just how strong that process should be. Public Act 4 was the result of a widespread opinion that Public Act 72 wasn’t strong enough.”

A white paper by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council concluded Proposal 2 would have limited impact on private sector employees because their collective bargaining rights are protected under the National Labor Relations Act passed by Congress in 1935 — but public employees aren’t covered by the federal law.

The Citizens Research Council on Friday said the state is the least aggressive in its pursuit of renewable energy attainment, but also raised some questions as to the implementation of the proposal that would increase the Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 25 percent by 2025….

That highlights realities that transcend party politics. First, unsustainable pay scales and defined benefit public pensions have contributed to a framework in which more than a quarter of every education dollar is not spent on schools but, instead, goes to retirees. In Michigan, the problem was publicized by the Citizens Research Council even before the 2007-08 economic setbacks. It showed that benefit costs were on pace to consume one-third of every education dollar.

A review of these proposed amendments reveals that several are quite lengthy, go into substantial technical detail, and deal with issues that would be found in statutory law, not in the constitutions, of most states, according to the non-partisan, Lansing-based Citizens Research Council, which has just issued a report on the matter.

“If you think of the constitution as an instrument that broadly establishes the limits of political power, you wouldn’t expect that it would specify the street address of a casino,” said Eric Lupher, a state constitutional scholar with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“Putting every legislative whim in the constitution makes it difficult for lawmakers to adapt,” he notes, “because to get anything done, you have to amend the amendments.”

“When you go through this unprecedented period we’ve gone through, the increment is gone,” said Eric Lupher, director of local affairs at the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “There is no money to do the things TIFAs are supposed to do.”

Eric Lupher, a local government expert who worked with the communities on the merger plan, said, “Everything got so lost in politics; they kind of lost sight of what the vote was about.”

“I wasn’t there … but from what I understand, there was a lot of campaigning on the idea that the village has assets and by giving them to township, you are just giving away village money; there was no compensation for this ‘loss,’” added Lupher, who works for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

From a distance, it appears the Onekama process has been handled well. The citizens and local leaders have done their due diligence. Rather than a rushed, quick vote, they took a deliberative approach of establishing a disincorporation commission with equal representation from the village and the township to more fully investigate and report. By relying on the Citizens Research Council of Michigan for further assistance, the stakeholders brought in a credible and highly respected independent voice to aid their review. In addition, the state government provided valuable assistance in the form of grant funding to help defray the costs.

Eric Lupher, a local government expert at the nonpartisan, nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michiganhas been advising local officials on this idea. While the immediate issue only affects fewer than 2,000 Michigan residents (Onekama Township has about 900 residents), Lupher says the vote could have an impact in many places across the state.

The Citizens Research Council, an independent think tank, issued a memo questioning whether Weatherspoon’s plan to use the nonhomestead tax to pay off debt while creating a separate charter district was consistent with state policy.

“For every local 18-mill tax dollar removed from the district’s per-pupil foundation grant, the state School Aid Fund has to add one dollar,” the memo stated.

The Council called on the Legislature to settle the question, which it did with the bills that received bi-partisan support. The new legislation sets aside $50 million for school district loans and $35 million for municipalities over the next seven years. Any single loan can’t exceed $20 million.

New Baltimore residents and city officials learned the facts on charter revisions and amendments on July 23 after a representative from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan presented facts regarding the hotly-contested issue.

Voters will decide Aug. 7 whether the city charter should be revised. If approved, voters would then cast ballots to elect nine candidates for the charter commission in November. Those nine people would meet publicly and decide what changes should be made to the charter. The revisions could be anything from adding city positions, updating language in the 1973 documents or governmental reform, said Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

This year there were fewer boats and snowmobiles with “for sale” signs on them along U.S. 23 in Michigan, the route we take for our family’s annual July sojourn. To me this means the state’s economy is improving and a recent report from the Citizens Research Council in Michigan confirms things are turning around for our northern neighbor.

Because his office is duty-bound to rescue local governments from bankruptcy, Gov. Rick Snyder has the right to attach strings to some of the money they are allotted each year through the state revenue sharing program. Unfortunately, the governor’s plan contains a serious limitation, in that it applies to only one-third of the state’s 1,800 cities, counties, townships and villages, a study released by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan pointed out this week.

Because his office is duty-bound to rescue local governments from bankruptcy, Gov. Rick Snyder has the right to attach strings to some of the money they are allotted each year through the state revenue sharing program. Unfortunately, the governor’s plan contains a serious limitation, in that it applies to only one-third of the state’s 1,800 cities, counties, townships and villages, a study released by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan pointed out this week.

But it appears that city officials expect the situation to be resolved in their favor. As of this week, the city had not issued updated withholding schedules for employers, according to a report from the Citizens Research Council. And budget assumptions for the coming year by Mayor Dave Bing, City Council and officials appointed under Detroit’s financial stability agreement with the state appear to assume the $8.5 million will be collected.

A non-profit public policy research group says a plan that would prevent the Muskegon Heights School district from filing for bankruptcy amounts to a “state bailout.” The Citizens Research Council says that plan is being pursued without direct involvement from the Legislature or a direct appropriation. The Detroit Free Press quotes a state Treasury Department spokesman saying the plan to turn the Muskegon Heights district over to a charter operator is the “only viable option.”

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan in a memo said the plan to use nonhomestead tax revenue to pay off the Muskegon Heights school district’s debt is not consistent with state policy and essentially amounts to Muskegon Heights receiving $840,000 more in pupil funding than other districts.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) said that in order to fully fund the schools at the rate charter schools receive, the state would have to kick in an additional $840,000 from the state’s School Aid Fund to the charter operator.

The nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan said Tuesday that Muskegon Heights Schools would use about $1.2 million each year from local millage taxes earmarked for student education to pay off a projected $12 million accumulated deficit.

In March, the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan issued a wide-ranging report on special-education financing in the state. A blog commenting on the study and specifically on comparisons between charters and traditional schools noted, “(From 2000-2010), the percentage of students with IEPs enrolled in charters increased from 5.4 percent to 9.7 percent — a greater proportion of students with IEPs chose this educational alternative.”

In many states, with the recession fresh in their memory, lawmakers were reluctant to cut taxes too much or restore spending too quickly out of fear that they couldn’t afford ongoing commitments. That was especially true in Michigan, where the state never really recovered from the recession in the early 2000s before the Great Recession hit. “The 2000s were pretty much a decade of austerity,” says Craig Thiel, director of state affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Pew’s findings echo earlier research. In 2008, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan found the average length of stay had increased 57 percent from 1981-2005. Accounting for the relative proportion of assaultive offenses, Michigan’s length of stay for people released in 2003 was 14 months longer than the national average. If the average time served had been one year shorter beginning in 1990, by 2005 Michigan would have had roughly 14,000 fewer prisoners. CRC attributed the increase to the adoption of sentencing guidelines, the elimination of good time credits and the decline in parole approval rates.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, economists say. For every year since 2002, the city has run a general fund deficit. For every one of those years, it has also had a deficit reduction plan that it has failed to implement, says Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“You’ve got a city government that was constructed for and a public infrastructure that was designed for a city of two million,” Ms. Buss said, noting that Detroit’s population has declined 61 percent since 1950, with 25 percent of that drop since 2010.

“City leaders have not been able to shrink that government as fast as the tax base has shrunk,” she said.

In Michigan, about 800,000 petition signatures will be needed to force a recall election on the governor. Such a vote has never happened in this state, but local recall elections are increasing and have actually become fairly common — at least more so than in most states, including Wisconsin, according to a report released Monday by the Citizens Research Council.

A report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan issued in September 2010 showed that MEAP test results from Michigan charter schools in urban areas are generally higher than those in similar public school districts.

Bettie Buss, a senior researcher with the council, said some public school academies produce excellent academic results — the school that ranked highest in MEAP performance in 2009 was a public school academy — but overall, standardized test scores of charter students lag statewide averages.

Other studies have confirmed this. Earlier this year, the Citizens Research Council published a report on early education in the state, and found the best-run programs can make a difference for disadvantaged children by improving school readiness and graduation rates down the road.

Eric Lupher, director of local affairs at the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, isn’t so sure.

“I don’t think it will have a great effect,” he said.

Lupher said the changes leave in place a system he sees as flawed in its blind reliance on binding arbitration. Lupher said it undercuts the motivation to reach a mutually beneficial collective agreement, “leading to the contentious nature of bargaining.”

“They’ve kind of tinkered around the edges. Many cities continue to operate in the old industrial model of us versus them and then you come down to the line,” he said.

Eric Lupher of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan notes that legacy pension obligations are a key problem in cities such as Pontiac, Benton Harbor and Flintthat have been placed in the hands of emergency managers under Michigan’s controversial Public Act 4.

Those facts are indeed daunting. As Betty Buss of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Citizens Research Councilexplained, the current crisis has been a long time in the making.

Bettie Buss, a former city budget analyst who now follows Detroit’s fiscal problems for the nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan, said stable casino revenues have been the “single bright spot in an otherwise dim revenue picture for the city’s general fund.”

She said city officials know Detroit is going to take a hit from the competition in Ohio, but how much is hard to say.

“The pressure is to underestimate the loss to minimize the reductions you’re going to have to make,” Buss said Thursday. “It’s hard to cut. Nobody can argue that city services are even adequate, so how do you keep cutting from already inadequate city services? It’s a really tough challenge.”

Changing state law to keep the city income tax at current levels—2.5 percent for residents and half that for nonresidents. Under current law, the rate would be rolled back by 1/10thof a percent in July, costing the city an estimated $8.5 million, according to a study by Citizens Research Council of Michigan, an independent policy research group. Additional rollbacks would be possible in future years under current law.

The proposal, supported by a Citizens Research Council report, is based on theory rather than practical experience, said commissioner Chris Wittenbach, R-Clinton.

The Citizens Research Council notes that auditors in 2010 questioned the valuation of $835 million in investments on the Police and Fire system’s books and $710 million on the General system’s ledgers.

“Strategically, bankruptcy has to be kept on the table,” said Bettie Buss, a senior research associate with the Livonia-based Citizens Research Council of Michigan and former budget official for the city of Detroit.

“There is no less probability of bankruptcy than there was previously. As a practical matter, the collateral damage from a bankruptcy may be so great that in the end the governor simply would simply not allow it to happen.”

Says the Citizens Research Council of Michigan: “Michigan’s year-over-year unemployment rate drop of 2 percentage points is tied with Alabama for the largest drop in the country.”

The Citizens Research Council (CRC) — a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization — will provide participants a snapshot of the city’s financial health and guide them through a budget prioritization exercise for allocating city resources.

“The CRC is partnering with FOCIS to help ensure participants’ decisions are based on factual, current data,” explains CRC Senior Research Associate Betty Buss. “The CRC believes it’s critical for citizens to understand the financial and procedural processes for delivering city services. We applaud FOCIS and Wayne State for initiating this valuable community engagement effort.”

Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at public policy group Citizens Research Council of Michigan, said a suspension of Public Act 4 would likely to trigger a flurry of litigation by labor unions challenging the resurrection of the former law.

“The unions are not going to give up on this,” Buss said.

“For years, benefits (in Michigan) were modeled on auto workers. Now we’re changing. Salary and benefits for state workers have been recalibrated, and (school employees) are the last ones. It’s also the most difficult,said Craig Thiel, director of state affairs for the Citizens Research Council, which first sounded the alarm on pension distress in 2004. “At the end, what this reform is about is breaking promises. No one I know wants to do that.”

All the way back in 2004, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan published its own report on MPSERS in the wake of the early-decade stock-market downturn, neatly outlining all of today’s problems. “The outlook for MPSERS contributions and the effect on school district budgets is decidedly gloomy,” the report concluded. And that was before the financial crises of 2008.

A report from the nonprofit Citizens Research Council in Detroit described the dilemma. “The potential impact of a New York City bankruptcy on the city, state, nation and beyond could not be predicted, but the effects were expected to be very serious. If bondholders prevailed, services would be devastated, potentially resulting in strikes and social disorder. … If services were protected, bondholders would not be paid and the financial markets would be affected.”

Many charter schools do not participate in the Michigan Public Schools Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). All in all, according to an estimate by Citizens Research Council of Michigan, there are 24% fewer people on payrolls against which retirement costs are levied than there were a decade ago.

A new report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has thrown light on a problem many school districts face. The amount schools spend on special education is rising fast and is eating into general education funds — at both the state and local level.

Last year’s healthy jump in per capita income is partly due to the fact that the state’s population is not growing, as Citizens Research Council of Michigan President Jeff Guilfoyle noted in a recent blog post.

About 14 percent of Michigan’s K-12 school population receives special education services, and the average per-pupil expenditure for those children is almost 50 percent higher than the average per K-12 student, according to a new report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

The Journal’s platform critiqued positive and negative aspects of privatizing city government services. Privatization may be the answer for Detroit’s total debt of $20 billion according to the Citizens Research Council.

Bettie Buss, a senior research associate with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan in Livonia, said the agreement represents “probably the lightest touch” the state can apply to Detroit that still has a realistic chance of being effective.

“That’s what compromise is all about,” Buss said.

The “real value” of Michigan’s per-pupil foundation allowance will drop 27 percent between 2003-04 and 2013-14 if Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget plan is enacted, says a new report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“The city has had a general fund deficit every year since 2002 and every year since 2002 there has been a deficit elimination plan, and none of those plans has ever been fully implemented,” said Bettie Buss, a senior research analyst at the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council.

“If you ask technically is it possible … with massive reductions in service levels, it is possible. Have we seen any indication over the last decade that there’s the political will to do that? I would have to say we have not seen that demonstrated.”

For those who want to dig deep into state and local tax rules, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has released its latest update of the “Outline of the Michigan Tax System.”

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has produced a readable two-page analysis comparing the proposed consent agreements offered by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

Snyder’s consent agreement is about the best the city could hope for, said Bettie Buss, a senior research analyst at the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council.

“I think this was the lightest touch the governor and his staff could come up with that had any real hope of being effective,” Buss said.

“The city has had a general-fund deficit since 2002,” said Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “In those years, the economy has been good, mediocre and poor. But in every year, they have had a deficit-elimination plan, and they never worked.”

Under this predecessor statute, Governor Snyder’s predecessors appointed emergency financial managers for the cities of Hamtramck, Flint, Highland Park, Pontiac and Ecorse, the Village of Three Oaks as well as for the Detroit Public Schools. See generally Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Financial Emergencies in Michigan Local Governments, Rep. No. 362 (April 2010). Because the Act specifically provides for the continuation of emergency financial managers appointed under this predecessor statute, the managers for Ecorse (Joyce Parker), Pontiac (Louis Schlimmel), Benton Harbor (Joseph L. Harris) and the Detroit Public Schools (Robert Bobb, succeeded by Roy Roberts) are still operating as managers.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan says state government’s cash position — a key indicator of financial health — has improved dramatically since 2007. Its report this week shows Gov. Rick Snyder’s turnaround plan is the right medicine for a decade of fiscal ills — if lawmakers can resist the urge to fall back into destructive spending practices of the recent past.

When retirement costs are considered, Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal would result in a 1 percent decrease in K-12 school funding next year and a 3.3 percent drop in 2014, according to a study released Friday by the Citizens Research Council.

Those findings are paralleled somewhat in a report just out from the Citizens Research Council of Michiganwith findings that both state and local tax burdens have declined in Michigan.

Although the Tax Foundation rankings are valuable, they are not the only thing businesses look at when making decisions on where to locate, said Jeffrey Guilfoyle, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a Livonia-based public policy research nonprofit.

Theoretically, the city could sell off assets, but there are several hurdles involved, said Betty Buss, who compiled a recent Citizens Research Council of Michigan report detailing the city’s debt load. Either the sale wouldn’t generate enough money to be worth it, or there could be problems because of how the asset is funded, she said.

“This is clearly the city’s best effort to convince the state that city officials and union leaders should be allowed to resolve the city’s challenges without state intervention,” said Bettie Buss, senior research associate for the Citizens Research Council. “It is clear that the state will very carefully consider the promises made in this document in their determination.”

A recent study by Citizens Research Council (crcmich.org) highlights the importance of teachers and how Michigan could do a better, more efficient job of preparing its classroom leaders. We need to engage classroom teachers and listen to their voice as we embrace and lead school change.

Detroit, already hurting for revenue, must cut personal income taxes by July 1 to comply with Michigan law, according to a report released Friday by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a non-partisan think tank.

The City of Detroit is facing an $8.5 million reduction in income tax intake becaause it is doing well enough economically that it does not meet the standards needed to keep its tax rate higher. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) released a report last week that showed Detroit would have to reduce its municipal income tax rate beginning July 1, the start of the new fiscal year in the city, because it did not meet three out of four requirements to prevent the reduction.

An analysis by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, released Friday, estimates that the lost revenue to the city — or savings to taxpayers — would be about $8.5 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Eric Lupher, director of local affairs at the nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan, said townships and villages tend to have higher fund balances than cities or counties because of the way they fund large expenditures.

“Cities usually go to the bond market to borrow money for capital improvements,” he said. “Townships tend to save up the money for when they need to buy things. They’re making wise use of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

“The financial situation in the city is quite complicated and there are no easy answers,” said Bettie Buss, senior research associate, Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a nonpartisan public policy think tank.

The report, from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, offers worthwhile observations. Gov. Rick Snyder has recognized the importance of training teachers effectively and making sure only the best teachers make it to classrooms. He’s asked teaching programs to strengthen their course requirements and requested that the State Board of Education and Education Department raise the bar on teacher certification tests.

Yes, $17 billion with a “B” dollars when you include interest. But the real figure is even higher, according to the Citizens Research Council, a non profit, non partisan “better government” organization that’s been around for nearly a century – since 1918 to be exact.

Generally, at this point in the conversation, the talk turns to Detroit’s assets. Jewels, if you will. The kinds of things Public Act 4 empowers an emergency manager to sell. That’s “any asset that (the sale of) doesn’t put residents in danger or that doesn’t impair a legal obligation,” Bettie Buss of the Citizens Research Counciltold me a few months back.

Jeff Guilfoyle, president of Citizens Research Council of Michigan, concurred, calling Proposal A a “profound shift.”

“If you’re going to compare (spending) you need to adjust for Proposal A. It’s critical to make that adjustment,” he said.

Though research has shown that quality teachers are essential to student achievement, the current certification process does not guarantee that quality and does not necessarily provide what it does in the most efficient manner, the Citizens Research Council said in a report released Monday.

In a report released in October, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan concluded that while there may not be any money saved by folding the village into the township, the community would likely see improved planning, economic development and stewardship of Portage Lake.

Bing’s team also downplayed the city’s debt. A recent report by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Councilestimated the city’s total debt and long-term liabilities and obligations at roughly $13.2 billion — or $18,500 per Detroiter.

Snyder understands he is stepping into a political minefield if an emergency manager is appointed, said Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a public policy think tank. “There is no upside for the governor to appoint an emergency manager of Detroit, but the city is facing a crisis,” she said.

The city has a relatively high ratio of debts to assets. The debts include bonds of various kinds, including bonds to cover the city’s pension fund obligations. If, as a report by the non-partisan Citizens Research Councilnotes, the assets of the city’s pension funds grow more quickly than the cost of paying down the bonds, the pension bonds sold in recent years will prove to be a sound financial strategy. If not, the pension obligations will prove to be another drag on the city’s financial fortunes. So far, the pension funds appear to be adequately funded to meet their obligations to retirees. Even so, the city’s contribution to its two major pension funds last year was more than $70 million.

In its analysis of the 2012 state budget, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan said the $1.4 billion in personal income tax increases could negate the positive economic impact of business tax cuts.